Archive for November, 2003

I just received word that my friend Wendy’s wedding, which was earlier today, went quite well. Congratulations to her.

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I used to believe in Soulmates—the concept that there is that one and only person out there who is your perfect complement, who could know you almost better than you know yourself, and whom you are destined to find and fall in love with. I don’t want to believe such nonsense anymore.

It is the Hollywood-sanctioned ideal. It is a hope that gives my life meaning. It is my idol—my false god. A treacherous god it is. It betrayed me. Oh, how I loathe it! And yet, there is still part of me that loves it—that wants to believe the lie that if I can just fine “The One” then life will be perfect forevermore.

What is most sinister about this idol is that it encourages me to measure my worth by the acceptance of some other person. As time marches on and no such acceptance is found, desire turns against me and breeds shame. “What’s wrong with me?” it leads me to ask myself.

Rather, I must recognize that my worth is entirely in Christ, and that it is he that satisfies me.

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Earlier this afternoon, I was doing some web-surfing and checking my email when I got an IM from Jed. This isn’t an unusual occurrence, however this time it was a plea for help since he was stranded at a Mac store with a car that failed to start. (Of all the places to get stranded, that has to be one of the best.) Since he lives in Nashville, there wasn’t much that I could do, except try to get in touch with Megan for him. Jed gave me what he thought was Megan’s pager number, but when I called it, there were no instructions nor any identification, just a beep, a few seconds of silence, and a “Thank you”. So I don’t know who, or what, I called. Anyway, I called Megan’s house and got her real pager number from one of her roommates, which I then used to leave a message for her about Jed’s predicament. Hopefully that will help get Jed home.

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You’ve seen it at the arcade or on TV, or at least you’ve heard about, haven’t you? That dancing game. You know. That game that pumps out loud music with a strong bass beat while the player hops around like mad on some sort of platform. Bobby played it in that episode of _King of the Hill_ where they go to Japan. It’s called Dance Dance Revolution, and once someone explains how it works, it’s lots of fun. The basic premise is that the game scrolls arrows up the screen, and when they reach the top (which happens to be in time with the music), you have to hit the corresponding arrow on the platform. The better your timing, the better your score. It takes a while to get the hang of it (everyone fails the first time they try), and it takes tons of practice to master it, but it’s a great workout.

If you want to play DDR, you could of course go to the arcade, wait in line, lay out lots of cash, and risk embarrassment in front of all the other people there; or you could save yourself a lot of trouble and invest in a home system, which is what I have done. Plus, if you make your setup mobile, you can take it to with you and have an instant party hit. If you’d like to put together your own DDR system, here’s some suggestions.

First, you’ll need a computer to run the game. It will have to be a fairly recent system—something with some speed, a decent graphics card, and a USB port. My 500 MHz G3 iBook does fairly well, but it does occasionally skip. Therefore, I’d recommend something with a little more oomph—something like an iBook G4. Starting at $1099, this sleek little laptop packs an 800 MHz G4 processor, an ATI Mobility Radeon 9200, and the ability to mirror the screen on a TV using a $19 adapter available from Apple. Along with the Apple video adapter, you’ll also need an adapter to convert the iBook’s stereo mini plug headphone jack into two RCA jacks (about $5), and a three plug RCA cable to get the audio & video signals to the TV (about $10). Cost: $1133

Second, you’ll need some software. For this we turn to Stepmania. Stepmania is open-source software that has received lots of development, continues to undergo very active development, supports both mp3 and ogg music files, and supports a wide-variety of step file formats. At the moment, it’s best to download version 3.0 final, since the next version (3.9) is still in the early stages of development and thus probably rather buggy. Cost: Free

Third, you’ll need some songs with step files. You could search the web for originals, but the quality of the stuff that’s out there is either hit or miss. Instead, go for the official song sets, which can be found at DDRUK. Simply sign up for a free account, and then hit the downloads page to get the DDR Bumper Packs, which collect all the songs from a given DDR version into one ZIP file. (Note: You’ll need BitTorrent to download the files.) I suggest mixes 1 through 8, including the “Plus” and USA Playstation versions. While you’re there, also pick up the ZIP file containing the complete collection of banners for each of the mixes. Cost: Free

Fourthly, you’ll need a dance pad. I suggest buying a RedOctane pad. The three different models that you have to choose from, depending on how serious you want to get, are all high quality. The simplest and cheapest (which is what I have) is the original RedOctance soft Dance Pad ($50). It’s a good pad that gets the job done. If you go that route, you’ll probably also want to get the RedOctane Dance Pad Cover ($15), which is recommended to extend the life of the pad especially if you want to wear shoes while dancing. The next pad in the product line is the RedOctane Ignition Pad 2.0 ($100). This is another soft pad, however it features raised buttons that allow you to better feel your way around the pad, and a 1-inch dense foam insert that supposedly improves the response of the sensors. At the top of the heap is the RedOctane Metal Pad ($200). Featuring a steel frame and polycarbonate buttons, this hard pad truly brings the arcade experience home. Cost: $65, $100, or $200

Fifthly, all three RedOctane pads come with Playstation conectors, so you’ll also have to buy a Playstation-to-USB adapter. The Stepmania website maintains a list of compatible adapters. I have the EMS USB2 adapter, however I would now go with the Boom PS Joy Converter ($15), which is the one that the Stepmania website now most highly recommends. Cost: $15

Finally, if you are going to use a soft mat on carpet, you’re going to have trouble with it sliding around. The grippy bottom only works on smooth surfaces. However, I’ve found that putting a plastic/vinyl office chair mat for use on carpet under the pad fixes the problem. A three foot by three foot mat (which matches the dimensions of the dance pad) can be found at any office supply store. Cost: about $15

Total Cost (not including computer): $95

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Before heading off to bed, I decided that I wanted to take care of something that required booting into MacOS 9. Once I was done that task, I re-selected 10.3 for my boot OS and clicked “Restart”, expecting to be back in OS X land in a matter of seconds. However, much to my dismay, after shutting down OS 9, my precious B&W G3 didn’t boot up. It was on, the spinning of fans and hard drives was audible, and it had sounded the startup chime, but the screen was blank, the light in my optical mouse was off, and the clicking of hard drive heads retrieving data was absent. “Okay,” I thought, “perhaps, some memory got clogged or mixed up or something. That’s what this reset button is for.” Press. “Bong”, it replied, but nothing more did it do. Panic beset me.

My mind suddenly clicked into advanced troubleshooting mode. I recalled that the last thing that I had done before the trouble began was to turn off my MO drive and CD burner—both of which are attached to my SCSI port. Unplug. Press. “Bong.” Nothing. “Well,” I thought, “maybe switching off my drives while my computer was restarting somehow fried my SCSI card. After all, SCSI isn’t hot-pluggable. Maybe I should try removing the card.” After unplugging the computer, I grabbed my anti-static wrist strap and my tool box, opened the swing-down side door, blew out a giant cloud of dust with a can of compressed air, yanked the SCSI card, closed the case, and tried again. Press. “Bong.” Nothing.

It was getting late and I was out of ideas, so I resolved myself to the fact that my beautiful tower was dead and that it would have to go into the shop. “I guess those backups might come in handy after all,” I thought to myself. However, out of a desire to see if there was a better way to turn off the computer without yanking the power cord out of the outlet, I pulled out the troubleshooting guide. After finding out that yanking the power cord out of the outlet is the sanctioned method of emergency shutoff, I noticed the section on what to do if the computer doesn’t boot. There was the usual stuff telling people to make sure that it’s plugged in and that the monitor is turned on, but then I noticed “Reset the PRAM”.

“The PRAM,” I pondered. “It’s worth a shot.” I stretched the fingers of my left hand to simultaneously hold down command-option-p-r, while I used my right hand to hit the reset button. Press. “Bong”. Pause. Softer “Bong.” The screen flickers. One more restart just to be sure. “Bong.” Release. The screen lights up. I see the folder with flashing question mark icon appear indicating that it’s trying to find a system folder from which to boot. I wait. Then, gloriously, the hard drive heads spring to life, the Apple logo appears, and the computer starts up! I rejoice.

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